August 17, 2020

CU alters relationship with Colorado Correctional Industries

The University of Colorado announced today it will continue to consider Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI) as a vendor for its furniture contracts, but it will no longer use it as an exclusive provider.

A working group comprising students, faculty and staff delivered a recommendation to CU President Mark Kennedy, who had convened the group and charged it with examining the university’s business relationship in light of concerns about CCI’s use of inmate labor and associated issues. CCI, a business operating under the auspices of the Colorado Department of Corrections, has been an exclusive provider of furniture across CU’s four campuses and system administration since the 1970s. CU is one of CCI’s largest clients, spending an average of $7-10 million annually (a cumulative $56 million since 2013).

The university’s CCI working group was charged with determining “whether CU would continue to do business with CCI as its exclusive furniture vendor in light of business, ethical and moral concerns.”

“I applaud the working group’s efforts – particularly from our student, faculty and staff shared governance members – in arriving at an equitable solution to a complex issue,” Kennedy said.

As part of its due diligence, the group met virtually with leadership from the Colorado Department of Corrections, professional management of the CCI furniture program and inmates in the program. It also reviewed CCI’s annual reports, state audits, the organization’s statutory standing, as well as CU’s procurement policies and procedures. The group determined that there were issues inherent in the CCI program, which were generally beyond CU’s scope to change, such as extremely low inmate wages, a small number of opportunities for released inmates to gain furniture industry employment, problems with CCI’s business operations and outcomes, and a lack of educational opportunities for inmates.

The working group also cited the program’s positive aspects, noting that it provides inmates with positive and productive ways to spend their time, gives them valuable lessons about formal work environments, helps them help themselves and their families with wages, and provides hard skills (craftsmanship, electrical skills, management) and soft skills (teamwork, time management, professionalism).

The working group also noted that continuing a relationship with CCI can help influence change in the program and extend its educational mission into prisons.

For more information contact: Ken McConnellogue or 303.815.8481